Another weekend, another hike in Glacier. It was sort of a special occasion, though, since this past weekend was the first annual Mountain Goat Days survey, sponsored by the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center (CCRLC). I figured since I now work there I might as well participate in some of their activities.
The purpose of Goat Days was to try to get as many volunteers out in the field in as many different parts of the park as possible, all scanning the cliffs for mountain goats. As of right now, the park service has no real estimate of how many goats inhabit Glacier National Park, and as a result, have no idea what is happening to the population with the impacts of global climate change.
So Goat Days was born. It will hopefully give the park a point-in-time assessment of how many goats might be in the park. At least in areas that are visible from the 700 or so miles of trails that criss-cross the backcountry. And if this thing catches on and becomes an annual park-wide event, we may actually be able to extrapolate some general population trends. But that's still a ways off.
To do our part, Sonja and I elected to conduct two surveys, one in an area called Preston Park and the other on top of Siyeh Pass.
We opted to split up, with each of us conducting one of the two surveys to save time. You can see how excited I was about getting to be the one to climb to the top of the pass. That ridgeline behind me is the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, with Piegan Mountain behind my right shoulder.
While I didn't see a single goat during my survey, I was greeted by a nursery group of bighorn sheep when I got to the top of the pass. At 8,080 feet in elevation, it's supposedly the highest maintained trail in the park.
One of the things I look forward to most after climbing (then descending) up 2,900 feet over a 9.4 mile hike is to peel off the hot, sweaty boots and dip my feet into a crystal clear, and frigidly cold, mountain stream.
There are very few things that feel quite as refreshing as this.
I did end up seeing A goat...as I was hiking back down the pass after my survey was over. Sonja saw eleven, ten of which were actually during her survey. Lucky.